What is gender equity and how does it help us achieve equality in leadership?
According to Statista, there are currently 516k men employed full-time in the financial and insurance sector in the UK (at the end of 2021) and 344k women. The ratio of men to women in the sector is higher than it has been traditionally but there is still some work to be done to bring more women into the sector and close this gap. As we are seeing this ratio improve over time, this doesn’t mean men and women have equal opportunities in their career. This is where we also need equity to achieve equality.
Equality is when an individual or group is given the same opportunities and resources, whereas equity recognises that each person has different circumstances and is allocated the exact resources required to reach an equal outcome to the wider group.
Due to the history of how the insurance sector was created, women, and other minority groups, have been subject to barriers in their careers which has stunted their career development and as a result they have less representation at senior leadership level.
The majority of businesses are now trying to address the diversity in their leadership teams to ensure the organisational culture, and the products it creates, reflect society. Many would think championing equality would support this goal, however, equity is needed before we can champion equality.
By this I mean, for an organisation that wants to prioritise diversifying their team, women and other minority groups need more (not equal) resources, development opportunities and access in order to accelerate their career progression. This accelerated career development of minority groups is going to enable true diversification of an organisation's team. Once this diversification has happened, then we can talk about implementing equal opportunities across the whole organisation.
This is why ISC Group focuses specifically on women inInsurance, providing the sector and organisations with the additional resources required to develop and accelerate the careers of women.
This doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t be inclusive. I fundamentally believe that all people must be included when attempting to diversify an organisation/sector.
Inclusion is so important; firstly, raising awareness of the barriers that women and minority groups face, but secondly, because it is critical when implementing initiatives to address the issues and gaps that everyone understands and why an organisation is prioritising some over others in the short term.
Intersectionality of minority groups and understanding the ever evolving landscape of “emerging” minority groups should also be front of mind for organisations trying to diversify because this also requires equity.
Solutions to the barriers, and the unconscious bias that create them, are not a “one size fits all” approach. Therefore companies should have a multifaceted D,E&I strategy, taking subsections of minority groups and rolling out specific solutions for this group of people. Again, this would be defined as equity not equality.
I see organisations every day trying to streamline their D,E&I initiatives (due to budget limitations) and getting caught out on intersectionality and what to prioritise. They typically don’t want to duplicate efforts or are looking for solutions that are overarching of multiple minority groups, again due to lack of budget or time.
Investing in an audit and then engaging with multiple companies that address that gaps that have been presented is the most effective and time efficient way of addressing gaps in diversity in an organisation, but it is expensive (initially) and many occur duplication where this intersectionality occurs between minority groups e.g. neurodiverse women or black LGBTQ+men. However, once you have the data and know what is working from all the different solutions, you can then streamline.But only then.
My question therefore to companies is how much of a priority is diversifying your organisation? If it is on the board agenda, then more investment and data is needed, not less. Championing equality over equity could slow the progression you make towards your D,E&I goals, significantly.